Sunday, September 07, 2014

My BFFs (Book Friends Forever)

I was starting to think that nobody would invite me to take part in the latest Facebook meme. Finally, though, my friend (and January Magazine editor) Linda L. Richards tagged me. The challenge is to name 10 books that have “stayed with you” in some way. You shouldn’t think too hard on the matter, and the books you choose don’t need to be great works of literature, just those that you hold a little piece of in your heart. Well, here goes my list:

Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry (1985)
Lincoln, by Gore Vidal (1984)
The Underground Man, by Ross Macdonald (1971)
The Little Book, by Selden Edwards (2008)
Homer & Langley, by E.L. Doctorow (2009)
Riven Rock, by T.C. Boyle (1998)
Mohawk, by Richard Russo (1986)
Never Cross a Vampire, by Stuart M. Kaminsky (1980)
The Steam Pig, by James McClure (1971)
Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt, by David McCullough (1981)

As I said, I put these picks together quickly, without over-thinking the exercise. That my list features only three crime novels shouldn’t be terribly surprising; they represent my early experiences with the genre, back when I was still trying to decide whether it offered the storytelling scope and writing quality that would keep me interested in the long run. (Obviously, it did!) I am more surprised to see that only two of the books I mention were published within the last 15 years.

Even extending this tally to 22 titles (I couldn’t bear to trim any more out of it) adds only two 21st-century works:

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos (1989)
Ringworld, by Larry Niven (1970)
The Theory of Everything, by Lisa Grunwald (1991)
The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, by Herbert Asbury (1933)
The Eighth Circle, by Stanley Ellin (1958; more here)
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
The Blind Man of Seville, by Robert Wilson (2003)
The Big Sky, by A.B. Guthrie Jr. (1947)
Looking for Rachel Wallace, by Robert B. Parker (1980)
Leavenworth Train: A Fugitive’s Search for Justice in the Vanishing West, by Joe Jackson (2001--more here)
Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, by Steven Millhauser (1996)
Angel in Black, by Max Allan Collins (1981--more here)

Have I become increasingly critical of books over time? Was I more open to new works during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s--is that why those decades are best represented here? Perhaps my standards for excellence have risen over the many years I’ve been reviewing books, and it’s harder now for a new yarn to win my adoration. That seems as good an excuse as any others.

On Facebook, participants in this meme were asked to tag others, who would then feel pressured to submit their own book choices. I am declining to do that here. But if you’d like to share your top-10 lists in the Comments section below, that would be cool.


Ed Gorman said...

Great idea, Jeff.

1. The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald
2. Brighton Rock Greene
3. On The Road Kerouac
4. The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
5. The Illustrated Man Bradbury
6. The Way Some People Die Macdonald
7. The Short Stories of Stephen Crane
8. I, The Jury Spillane
9. How Like An Angel Millar
10. Ask The Dust Fante

Louis Burklow said...

Glad to find out I share one with you. I'm not going to bother with the publication dates although I think I also lean more toward books I read when young. My 10 is:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

The Glorious Burden: The American Presidency by Stefan Lorant

The Red Box (1st Nero Wolfe I read) by Rex Stout

True Detective by Max Allan Collins

The World Rushed In by J.S. Holliday

The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Scott said...

My Top 10 of yesteryear in no particular order
1. The Rainy City by Earl Emerson
2. A is or Alibi by Sue Grafton
3. Bitter Medicine by Sara Paretsky
4. The Ouster Conspiracy by Nick Carter
5. Chinese Donavan by Carter Brown
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. The Day After Tomorrow by Robert Heinlein
8. The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Bret Harte
9. Negative In Blue by Carter Brown
10. Stone Angel by Marvin Albert

david hartzog said...

My list of 10, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, Bullitt Park by Cheever, Farewell, My Lovely by Chandler, House of Cards by Ellin, The Scorpio Letters by Canning, Sleeping Beauty by MacDonald, Midnight Plus One by Lyall, Those Who Walk Away by Highsmith, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by Higgins, and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Jeez, this is hard.

John C said...

I didn't list classics like Twain and Hemingway and To Kill a Mockingbird....

Ken Grimwood, Replay (1986)
Robert B. Parker, Mortal Stakes (1975)
Scott Turow, Presumed Innocent (1987)
James Lee Burke, Heaven's Prisoners (1988)
Dennis Lehane, Darkness Take My Hand (1999)
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003)
Tom Perrotta, Joe College (2000)
Audrey Niffeneggar, The Time Traveller's Wife (2004)
Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist (1985)
Michael Connelly, The Concrete Blonde (1994)

Ronald Tierney said...

Young Torless, RobertMusil
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, John LeCarre
Soul On Ice, Eldridge Cleaver
Armies of the Night/Miami And The Siege of Chicago, Norman Mailer
Tesseract, Alex Garland
The Teaching of Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda
Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
Diva, Daniel Odier (Delacorta)
Clarence Darrow for the Defense, Irving Stone
Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith

Craig said...

I liked this meme better back in 2009 when it was 15 books. Cutting it to 10 is haaaaaard. Anyway, here's my list:
1)Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
2) Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
3) True Grit by Charles Portis
4) Let the Dead Bury Their Dead by Randall Kenan
5)A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
6)The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
7)My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
8)The Earl of Louisiana by A.J. Liebling
9)All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
10)Coming Into the Country by John McPhee

If I were to add five also-rans, they would be Condominium by John D. MacDonald; Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy by Jane Levy; Queenpin by Megan Abbott; God's Trombones by James Weldon Johnson; and Killings by Calvin Trillin.

Paul Levine said...

1. RABBIT, RUN by John Updike.
2. FAREWELL, MY LOVELY by Raymond Chandler
4. BACK ROADS by Tawni O’dell
5. MISERY by Stephen King
6. ANATOMY OF A MURDER by Robert Traver (John Voelker)
7. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
8. THE LOCK ARTIST by Steve Hamilton
9. GORKY PARK by Martin Cruz Smith
10. TOURIST SEASON by Carl Hiaasen
11. THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BYE by John D. MacDonald

We all have deeply personal reasons for our choices. I was in my 20's when I read “Rabbit, Run” about the angst of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, who was the same age and living not far from where I grew up.

On the theory that every list should include one book of “required reading,” there’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” (Well, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was taken).

As for the last two, I never would have written “To Speak for the Dead,” my first novel, without Hiaasen and MacDonald. I owe them a great debt...though I would never tell Carl that!

Anonymous said...

I'm a crime fiction lover
so these are my top 10

THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley
THUNDER BAY by William Kent Krueger
GUNSHOT ROAD by Adrian Hyland
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL by James Ellroy
SHALLOW GRAVE by Lori Armstrong
PURPLE CANE ROAD by James Lee Burke
A DARKENING STAIN by Robert Wilson
BREATHING WATER by Timothy Hallinan


Steve Aldous said...

Mine are:
THE LONG GOODBYE by Raymond Chandler
SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS by Ernest Tidyman
JUNKYARD DOGS by Craig Johnson
LENNOX by Craig Russell
I, THE JURY by Mickey Spillane
THE GALTON CASE by Ross Macdonald

K-E Lindkvist said...

THE ODESSA FILE - Frederick Forsyth
FEAR IS THE KEY – Alistair Maclean
THE GOODBYE LOOK – Ross Macdonald
FUZZ – Ed McBain
DANCING AZTECS– Donald E. Westlake
THE MAN ON THE BALCONY – Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo
120, RUE DE LA GARE – Leo Malet/Jaques Tardi